OAKLAND –- The Oklahoma City Thunder, 25 days after taking the Warriors to seven games in the Western Conference Finals, apparently decided during the NBA Draft Thursday night that it’s time to retool their roster.
The Warriors should have mixed emotions about this.
The Thunder traded power forward Serge Ibaka, a mainstay in their lineup for five seasons, to the Orlando Magic, getting in return guard Victor Oladipo, forward Ersan Ilyasova and rookie big man Domantas Sabonis, drafted 11th overall out of Gonzaga.
On one hand, the Thunder just got younger and deeper. If this move met with the approval of star forward Kevin Durant, it dims the chances of the Warriors luring him out of OKC when he becomes a free agent next month.
On the other hand, if this deal was a matter of the Thunder getting younger and more perimeter-oriented, it could mean they expect Durant to leave either this summer or next and are preparing for his departure.
Durant is expected to meet with numerous suitors once the free agency window opens on July 1. The Warriors, long fascinated with Durant, are among the teams seeking an audience with the perennial All-Star in his Southern California home.
If you’re the Warriors, you surely ask Durant if he can understand why the Thunder would break up the nucleus of a team that, with the help of Ibaka, took a 3-1 lead on the Warriors?
The Warriors won’t miss Ibaka, that rare player who can shoot the 3-pointer and also protect the rim. He shot 34.4 percent from deep in the conference finals, better than Kevin Durant (28.6) or Russell Westbrook (31.7).
The general belief, however, is that the Thunder -– assuming Durant stays -– just boosted their offense while also becoming much more capable of defending opponents fond of shooting the 3-pointer, like the Warriors.